Book Review: 'Untraceable' by S.R. Johannes

BooksKristina Pino1 Comment

In Untraceable, Grace is three months into disbelieving the disappearance of her father has lead to his death. While everyone else around her is telling her to move on with her life, she scouts the mountains every day in hopes she'll find some new clue. The problem is, she has no idea how much trouble she's going to run into by digging deeper into her father's case.

(warning: light spoilers)

Right off the bat I should say that this is definitely most suited as reading material for teenage girls. That isn't to say that there are other demographics who could read and enjoy the book (I'm not in the Young Adult demographic, and I liked it), but considering Untraceable is completely in Grace's perspective and there's a little bit of romance here and there sprinkled in with the mystery and dark themes, some boys might not be as captivated by the character, though they absolutely could relate to her in most ways.

That being said, let's get to the skinny.

The first chunk of the book focuses mostly on Grace pushing away everyone around her over the loss of her father. Everyone is telling her to move on (or that she's crazy), and she's convinced he's still alive. Knowing her father a master tracker and one of the top rangers around, she has a hard time believing he'd just slip into the river and drown. She argues with her mother, fights her therapist, and snaps at everyone else including the police chief. Eventually, with the help of her ex-boyfriend Wyn, the plot gets moving (and I don't mean romantically, I really mean that he helps her break into the police chief's office).

After Grace takes matters into her own hands, she spends more time covering new ground in the woods. On the way she meets a new boy, Mo, who makes her feel completely different than Wyn ever did. Despite her new-found romantic happiness, she still doesn't give up on the case of her father and quickly finds herself on dangerous ground.

What I like about Untraceable is that Grace is a strong, but troubled character. She has a good head on her shoulders and is believably her age in most ways. She has her failures and mishaps throughout the story, and she also has her shining moments.

The pacing would have it that until about 70% into the book (I can say this because of my handy progress-bar on the Kindle eReader), I was relaxed while reading. Once the story crossed that mark, it became much more exciting and the mystery quickly unraveled in not too predictable a way. I was glad to see that I didn't actually have all the characters figured out, and even despite some tear-jerky moments towards the end, Untraceable does have a happy ending.

There's something about books written in a young adult perspective with the grown adults around her being irresponsible, or clueless, that bothers me. In this case, things were simply out of control. It bothered me that Grace's mother seemed to neglect her, and that her therapist didn't seem to be very creative or friendly. It eventually occurred to me that in her angst-y teen-age mind, Grace had probably decided that nobody around her would be of any help, and we (as readers) were forced into this "neglectful adult" perspective. It's not something that I got right from the start, though. More like, once I had the full picture of where everybody stood in this big mystery, I put the pieces together. In this way, I view the tired trope as a positive - instead of presenting a situation where the kiddo is helpless because of neglectful adults, it presented a situation where the adults are simply withholding information and the main character figures out how to bring everything to light in a semi-realistic way.

If the book were shrunk down to just the plot points, maybe switched to third person and missing all of Grace's inner dialogue and self-battles, it'd probably be less than half the size of the current finished product. The big thing with Untraceable is being in Grace's mind and sharing the moment with her when we finally reach the climax. I'll admit, I definitely shed a tear when that time came. It's one of those harsh reality checks regarding life and how anyone could be taken away from you at any time, and all of the regretful thoughts that come afterward. Think "I never did ask him about..."


"Did I tell him 'I love you' enough?"

I enjoyed Untraceable. It's clever how the author titled each chapter with a helpful survival tip that would seem like common sense, but then illustrated in the next few pages how easily Grace could break them when she knows better. It's a good read if you're into YA Mystery and can enjoy a female perspective and lots of desperate and angst-ridden thoughts. Being a teenager is frustrating enough without living in a small town that thinks you're going off the deep end, after all.

Thanks to Kate and Shellie for having me on this blog tour and providing me with a review copy of Untraceable so I'd be ready for the new book coming out this September. My date for the tour is September 6, and it looks like I'll also be giving away a copy! I hope you'll look forward to it.